At the beginning of March this year, the regular annual meetings of the National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (NC CPPCC) and the National People’s Congress (NPC) was held in the People’s Republic of China (PRC). In the mediasphere, this event is referred to as the “Two Sessions”.
As for the role and status of each of these institutions in the state structure of the PRC, according to one view, the NPC can be considered a unicameral parliament that simultaneously serves as a representative and legislative body of the country. While the NC CPPCC is a platform for the preliminary coordination of positions on important state issues between the ruling CCP, several small parties, the business community, the special administrative districts of Hong Kong and Macao, Taiwan, and foreign diasporas.
However, analogies are also possible (again, very tentative), for example, with the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation. In this case, the analogy of the State Duma would be the National People’s Congress, and the Federal Assembly – NC CPPCC. Similar functions are also performed, one of the main of which is to assess at the plenary sessions (which are the “Two sessions”) the economic activities over the past year and adopt a legislative act (in the form of approval of the government budget project), in accordance with which the country will live in the new year.
The important specifics of the functioning of these institutions of the PRC is due to the factor of the determining role of the Communist Party of China (CCP) in all major spheres of life of the country. That is, the nature of the legislative acts adopted during the current “Two Sessions” was predetermined by the last milestone event in the life of the PRC, which was the decision of the 20 th CCP Congress held six months earlier.
As for the most notable results of the overall plan of the last “Two Sessions”, the main one is to launch the process of China’s return to the position of one of the two (along with India) main locomotives, which should lead the global economic organism from the depression of recent years. The slowdown in its development has been due to both objective and quite man-made and subjective reasons. The latter primarily include the use for political purposes of the tool of sanctions by one group of participants in the current stage of the “Great World Game” against the other. The negative impact of this fact on the world economy was also mentioned during the discussions of the “Two Sessions”.
From the specific decisions of the past meetings, both quantitative and qualitative characteristics of the planned recovery process of the Chinese economy, the growth rate of which for a number of reasons in the previous two years has been sharply reduced, draw attention. Foreign experts believe that in addition to external factors (i.e. beyond the PRC’s ability to influence them), a significant role in this was played by the “zero tolerance” strategy regarding the spread of the Covid 19 pandemic on Chinese territory itself. China, while acknowledging the presence of this factor, denies its importance in the decline in economic growth.
In 2023, the volume of GDP should increase by 5% (in the previous year it increased by 3%). As Chairman Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang emphasized in their speeches, this will mainly happen by improving the quality of the production cycles of end products and primarily in the sphere of high technology, but not by opening the “budget floodgates”.
Among other things, such a strategy of economic development is designed to form a sense of verification of measures taken by potential foreign investors and, consequently, the stability of the growth of the Chinese economy. In other words, during the last “Two Sessions” it was by no means about the course of closing the Chinese economic space. Although they once again talked about increasing the role of the domestic market for manufactured products and reducing dependence on external markets. The words “openness,” “improving conditions for private business,” and “attracting foreign investment,” which have been popular in recent years, were still among the main themes of the speeches.
Equally noticeable was the presence of the word “security” in its various interpretations. It referred to both the economy (e.g., in connection with the US attempts to exclude China from the global microelectronics manufacturing system) and defense. Spending on this second will increase this year by 7.2% and reach a solid amount of about $225 billion. Which would still be 3.5 times less than the world leader in this area and the main foreign policy opponent in the face of the United States.
In connection with the latter, let us reiterate the main feature of China’s positioning in the foreign policy arena. It is based on the key concept of “Building a Community of One Destiny”, which is implemented through the Belt and Road Initiative political and economic project. The course for further development of BRI was outlined and during the discussed “Two Sessions”. That is, the key to China’s success in foreign policy is not military bases, but the joint construction of industrial and transport infrastructure and assistance to developing countries in education and healthcare. For example, during the “battle for Africa,” which is becoming increasingly important. China’s military presence is growing, especially in the Pacific and Indian Oceans.
The same concept also determines China’s obvious interest not only in maintaining, but also in developing relations with geopolitical opponents, i.e. the US, Japan, EU and leading European countries. The same factor explains a kind of ambivalence in China’s position on the Ukrainian conflict, which was clearly expressed during a meeting with journalists on the sidelines of the “Two Sessions” with Foreign Minister Qin Gang. He confirmed the political support of Russia, denied rumors about the supply of Chinese weapons to the “parties to the conflict” and spoke in favor of an early and peaceful resolution of the conflict.
Let us add to this that in China, laying the responsibility for “maintaining the fire” under the Ukrainian conflict on the US (which is also designated as the main beneficiary of it, share the view that it itself has a negative impact on all aspects of the functioning of the world community.
Let us emphasize again that the above positioning of the second world power (both in general and in particular) is conditioned by quite understandable pragmatism of Realpolitik (to which the above key principle corresponds quite well), that is, it does not contain any “going back in time” specific “Chineseness”.
The same pragmatism can also be seen in what foreign experts have identified as a certain change in rhetoric regarding the prospects for resolving the Taiwan problem. Such a shift was seen in the part of Prime Minister Li Keqiang’s report which was devoted to this very problem. The reason for such assessments, in particular, were the words: “We will adhere to the peaceful way of resolving the problems between the banks of the Taiwan Strait and the peaceful reunification of China.”
Let us make a few remarks in this regard. Firstly, the preference for peaceful resolution of the Taiwan problem is declared more or less constantly in the PRC. In particular, this was noted in Xi Jinping’s speech at the 20th CCP Congress. Secondly, however, these words of the current (for now) Prime Minister may indeed reflect a certain shift in emphasis in the way China manages its main, let us repeat, foreign policy problem.
One of the grounds for that could be the generally unfavorable outcome of the noisy incident concerning former US House Speaker Pelos’s visit to Taiwan in August last year. Which was obviously a well-planned provocation aimed at provoking the geopolitical rival to inadequate reaction on rather minor occasion. It was just in the days of that visit that the State Department confirmed the official US adherence to the “One China” principle in its relations with China.
A much more appropriate response to the emerging situation in and around Taiwan is to focus on transforming the domestic political field on the island. The fact and content of the recent visit to the PRC by a representative delegation of the Kuomintang Party is evidence that this strategy is now being favored. The Democratic Progressive Party, which has so far ruled the island, is also observing with a certain wariness the signs of the increasing use by Mainland for the above-mentioned purposes of what is commonly referred to as “soft power”.
In turn, we wish success in this to the closest partners of the Russian Federation in the currently unfolding “Great World Game”.
Vladimir Terekhov, expert on the issues of the Asia-Pacific region, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”